Mormonism places unique value on physical embodiment. It is very interesting to ponder the implications of this. One set I’ve been thinking about today is the implications for epistemology, or how it is that we know things.
Moroni tells us that “by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.” Modern prophets have taught that the witness of the Spirit is more powerful than any evidence that comes to us through the physical senses. Certainly, our ears and eyes can be deceived. We might conclude from all this that the only way to know something is by the Spirit (and I have heard some people make a claim like this).
But the necessity of our physical embodiment in the divine plan suggests otherwise to me. It suggests that we can know by virtue of our physical senses, and that this kind of knowledge is essential to our spiritual progression. Otherwise, what is the point of physical embodiment?
In fact, the scriptures suggest that this kind of knowledge was essential for the God of Israel, so much so that he condescended to become embodied like us, “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12, emphasis added).
It is interesting to note that the same verse and many others use physical terms to describe some aspects of this knowledge: “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh.”
The practice of fasting and the observance of the Word of Wisdom also point us to knowledge that is available only to embodied beings; indeed, one of the major promises of the Word of Wisdom is “treasures of knowledge.”
As a result, it seems that we cannot and should not claim that reliance on the Spirit alone is sufficient for all essential knowledge. It seems necessary that we claim knowledge by virtue of our physical senses, as well as reason (which, at a minimum, involves the body at the level of the brain).
What say ye? Is it equally important to learn by sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and reason as it is to learn by our spiritual senses? What are the things that we can only learn by virtue of our embodiment?